Helping you start, expand or purchase an early-stage, non-tech business
Celine Hajjar, NAFSI Founder
What is your business?
NAFSI is a line of slow luxury fashion that is sustainably sourced and ethically made, with a line of basics & limited quantities of unique pieces. Through NAFSI, I give back to the community, 100% of our deadstock fabric proceeds support newcomer women in Canada.
Why did you start your business?
I started my business for two reasons:
1. Self-expression: I express myself through what I wear and value quality over quantity. There isn’t a brand that offers timeless pieces which are versatile, oversized, and androgynous that also prioritizes sustainability. So, I created my own.
2. Environmental and Human Rights: There aren’t enough luxury brands that incorporate the rights of the environment and garment workers. The industry needs luxury that offers sustainability solutions, NAFSI provides this.
Tell us about yourself as an entrepreneur.
I’m truly doing what I love and that keeps me driven as an entrepreneur. I am always looking for resources, people, books, courses, etc. that can help me develop my skills or teach me something new.
When did you launch your business?
I launched in Dubai January 2020, and in Canada August 2020.
Where do you see your business in 3 to 5 years?
On the runway.
What did you learn from the Starter Company Plus program?
Starter Company Plus was so good to me! I was introduced to such great, knowledgeable people who have helped me develop my business & vision. My biggest takeaway was to network, speak up, and leverage the resources provided to you through the program. They’ve connected me with such great, knowledgeable people that have helped me develop my business & vision.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs who are starting their businesses?
Let passion drive your work. Passion has kept me going on the days when there are zero sales and it has given me creativity when I’m stuck on a design. It has driven me to become the entrepreneur that I am today.
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Frequently Asked Questions
BIPOC as Starter Company Plus’ 2020 priority?
At Invest Ottawa, we know that diversity, inclusion and belonging are critical success factors for globally competitive organizations and are required to drive sustainable wealth creation and prosperity across our region. As an organization that doesn’t simply accept differences, but celebrates and supports it, we prioritize the creation of an inclusive culture and infuse diversity into our programs, operations and governance. As has been widely identified, racialized people face significant barriers in accessing resources necessary for starting and growing successful businesses. In a 2017 survey on ownership demographics of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Canada, data shows that only 13.6% of businesses are majority-owned by BIPOC. Of this 13.6%, only 3% of businesses are majority owned by BIPOC women. We at Invest Ottawa have recognized this gap, and as such are delivering Starter Company Plus 2020 to specifically help address the needs of racialized people and help close the equity gap in our local entrepreneurial landscape
2SLGBTQ+ is an acronym used to refer to people, as a group, who identify as Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Trans, Gender Independent, Queer and Questioning. The plus sign acknowledges the many sexual and gender minority people who don't see themselves in the umbrella acronym and prefer other identity terms such as pansexual, gender-free, or intersex.
The word "womxn" is an alternative term to the English language word "women." We use this term to explicitly include those who identify as women, transgender women, women of colour and non-binary individuals. This choice supports our concerted effort to create a culture of belonging.
This program is made possible through funding from the Government of Ontario.